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Workshop on Border Demarcation Management – Ozerny (Grodno), Belarus 2-3 March 2010 Part I: Introduction to international boundary-making John Donaldson

International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU)

Founded 1989 by Professor Gerald Blake in the Department of Geography at Durham University. • Research and consultancy • Training • Conferences • Publications

Mission statement

IBRU works to minimise conflict associated with international boundaries on land and at sea around the world. Our work is interdisciplinary in approach and global in scope. We seek to integrate theory and practice in order to provide: • Practical expertise in boundary-making, border management and territorial dispute resolution. • Academic leadership in the study of boundaries and their impact on international relations and borderland development.

Boundaries still matter Clearly-defined and well-managed boundaries remain vital for: • Good international relations • Local and national security • Effective local administration • Efficient use of resources • Borderland prosperity

Key terms and concepts Boundary The line of no thickness where one state ends and another begins. Responsibility of both neighboring states Border The infrastructure and activities undertaking by each state, such as fencing, crossing points Borderland The zone or region on either side of the boundary in which the proximity of a neighbouring state affects the physical and human landscape. Other terms: frontier, limit.

Classic idea of boundary-making

Thomas Holdich (1916) Political Frontiers & Boundary-Making Stephen B. Jones (1945) Boundary-Making: A Handbook for Statesmen, Treaty Editors and Boundary Commissioners





Classic definitions of boundary-making Allocation – the definition of sovereignty over an area of land and its people – self-determination, – devolution or dissolution.

Delimitation – the legally binding description of a boundary, usually in a bilateral treaty (examples) – written description of the line, – list of coordinated points, – line depicted on maps.

Auxiliary pillar along DRC-Zambia boundary, CongoZambezi watershed (Source: Peake, E.R.L. Geographical Journal Royal Geographical Society 1934)

Demarcation – the physical marking of the boundary line on the ground – Boundary pillars – Cleared track

Administration – now referred to as border management

Guinea-Sierra Leone, 1912 Anglo-French boundary commission

Boundary-making in the 21st century

Access Security







Environment Resources Infrastructure

Boundary-making in the 21st century • Allocation is largely historical • Recovery of older delimitation and demarcation records • Survey and transport technologies have improved • Not a finite equation, but an ongoing process of improving and maintaining boundary definition • Border management addresses a wide variety of issues in the borderland areas

Iraq-Kuwait- Photo courtesy of Miklos Pinther

Saudi Arabia-Yemen - Photo courtesy of Jochen Petring

Boundary delimitation and demarcation Provides a mutually-acceptable definition of the boundary. It is normally agreed that the definition of the boundary should be as unambiguous as possible. Delimitation and demarcation work together to clarify the line (e.g. demarcation becomes agreed delimitation). However, many international boundaries were initially delimited when limited geographical knowledge meant that an unambiguous definition was impossible to achieve.

Types of international dispute • • • • •

Territorial / sovereignty disputes Positional disputes Maritime jurisdiction disputes Functional disputes Resource-related disputes Spratly Islands

Siachen glacier (Kashmir – China-India-Pakistan)

Leila/Perejil (Morocco-Spain)

Positional disputes • Poor knowledge of territory when boundary was delimited. • Vague or ambiguous definition of boundary in the delimitation agreement. • Poor or rudimentary demarcation. • Demarcation on the ground differs from delimitation.

China-Russia: Bear Island (Heixiazi/Bolshoy Ussuriyskiy)

• Lack of boundary maintenance or redemarcation. • Physical changes (river boundaries) 1900 Ethiopia-Italy boundary treaty map (Eritrea-Ethiopia)

Ras Doumeria (Djibouti/Eritrea)

Types of boundary sections • Physical landscape – – – –

rivers lakes mountain ranges watersheds

• Geometric – – – –

‘straight lines’ between defined points (e.g. hilltops) arcs of circles Latitude and longitude lines defined in relation to landscape features (e.g. parallel to river)

• Human landscape – tribal limits – Demographics (e.g. religious or linguistic) – property lines

Why is demarcation important? • Why is demarcation important? – Nationally: prevents bilateral disputes from arising over positional disagreement – For the borderland: clarifies jurisdiction for more efficient administration – Encourages dialogue between neighbouring state departments (e.g. survey, border guard, etc.) – Facilitates cooperative border management – no cooperation occurs in disputed areas

Making the boundary visible

Brazil-Venezuela Photo courtesy of Dauberson Monteiro Da Silva

Canada-USA Photo courtesy of Al Arsenault

Israel-Lebanon Photo courtesy of Miklos Pinther

Problems with poor demarcation and ‘no man’s lands’ State A

? ?

State B

Maintenance required!

Photos courtesy of Royal Thai Survey Department

River movement

Belarus-Russia river boundary sections


Russian Federation

Fixing river boundaries - problems • • • •

Do not follow any river changes (accretion or avulsion) Could isolate pockets of territory May not coincide with navigation/usage Require frequent survey and often very expensive restoration work

River boundaries – tips on good practice • Revise older/problematic delimitation treaty texts or establish new agreements to address problems • Choose a boundary that is most appropriate to the river, both its physical nature and its usage (e.g. navigation) • Clearly outline how the boundary will be affected by river changes • Allocate permanent/important islands and specify how new islands will be allocated • Set up a system for frequent re-survey where rivers are particularly prone to shift, or where there is local development

Introduction to international boundary-making  

The German Border and the Work of the Boundary Commission

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